By Carla Thomas Caps, gowns, kente cloth and cameras filled North Oakland Missionary Baptist Church as hundreds of graduates participated in the 2012 African and African American commencement of the Peralta Community College District. The May 19 event honored students from Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College. “It is an honor for me to honor you and the milestones you‘ve accomplished,” said Dr. Nathan Hare, a civil rights leader and pioneering founder of the first Black studies program in the U.S. In African tradition, Chinaka and Chukwudi Hodge drummed the processional while guests were introduced by master of ceremonies and graduation Chair Dr. Lawrence VanHook. Dr. Carol Ward Allen, who has served as a member of the BART Board of Directors, as well as Assistant Vice Chancellor for the Peralta College District, talked to the graduates about the significance of the ceremony occurring on the same day as Malcolm X’s birthday. “Malcolm would have been 87 today, and I stand on his shoulders – you must have knowledge of the past in order to handle your future,” she said. Dr. Julia Hare emphasized the importance of parents in educating the next generation. “Higher education is essential to our future. However, active parents are key to a young student’s success in school,” said Hare, who was a founder of the Black Think Tank and widely regarded as one of the most dynamic motivational speakers in the country. Ebony magazine recognized her as one of the 150 most influential African-Americans for 2008. Keynote speaker Dr. William Love, emeritus faculty member of Merritt College, reminded the graduates that they came from ancestors who beat slavery. “You are graduating in a time of President Obama, the first Black man to speak for the entire USA, and you are also the descendants of ancestors who endured the worst form of slavery throughout the history of mankind…We will survive as long as we continue to love each other and teach each other,” he said. Ronald Moss, a graduating student, spoke passionately about the day’s theme of gratitude and how his own life had spun out of control until he enrolled at a Peralta college. He earned his A.A. degree in social behavioral sciences and achieved membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. “Don’t let distractions kill your inner voice or the dreams of our ancestors,” he said.
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